I am concerned about the future of energy on this planet. It appears to me as though we are consciously ignoring some brutal realities about how much energy we are going to burn during this century, helped I think by some miscalculations by those charged with forecasting future consumption.
While we’re busy ignoring this, we have been having political battles about climate change, renewable energy, government subsidies and a lot of things related to energy. But because we’re starting off with bad numbers, a lot of the arguments, initiatives and conclusions don’t really mean very much.
I hope to show you how and why in this blog. I hope to see old friends (and even some ‘enemies’) show up here to discuss this. For those who remember me from discussions about climate change, this blog is not about that–or not very much. I may have a Sunday morning post on the subject just to keep my hand in and to give some people a chance to holler at me electronically.
But the bulk of this blog will revolve around one basic equation: The medium range UN forecast for population in 2075 is between 9.5 and 9.9 billion souls. Per capita income is estimated in the IPCC A1 SRES (a scenario of future growth used by many climate scientists and policy analysts) at about $66,500 in today’s money. That means most of the world will be richer than Americans are today. Assuming that there will still be a Bottom Billion amongst us (to our shame), if the 8.9 billion people who are actively part of this miraculous new world are consuming energy at the rate Americans are today (330 million btus per person per year), the world will consume 3,000 quads every year.
That is an amount of energy hard to visualize. Each quad represents the energy liberated from 37.8 million tons of coal, which would fit on a train that was 3,780 miles long.
If that energy need comes to pass and we are forced through inadequate planning to satisfy it with coal, we’re sunk. And yet we are using forecasts for the short and medium term future that assume a much lower rate of consumption.
This poses a problem for us, one I hope to discuss at length.